Inspiration vs. Inferiority Complex: The Darkside Of Pinterest

Source: via Rachel on Pinterest


Pinterest is fun.

Pinterest is inspiring.

Pinterest is a great way to collect images for motivation or to keep track.

Pinterest is also the greatest online mall.

In this infographic from April of this year, Pinterest is said to account for 40% of all social media driven purchases.

What started as a fun place to share images with your friends has been infiltrated by big brands and magazines. Feels a lot like Twitter where the conversation keeps getting interrupted by sponsored tweets.

I like the inspiration and I like the vision boards and the recipes but the dark side of Pinterest worries me.

Do you pin those gorgeous photos of cupcakes and nicoise salads and then make them? Or do they languish on a recipe board while you make the same old meals for your family?

Do you have a board dedicated to your ultimate style wardrobe with cuddly hand knit angora sweaters and luxurious leather boots and do you save up and buy them? Or do you wear the same clothes and make the same wardrobe shopping mistakes over and over again?

Are you comparing your life to clippings from Real Simple and blogs by professional homemakers with a passion for crafting?

As they say, comparison is the thief of joy.

Pinterest isn’t the only place we compare our lives. Facebook is the greatest comparison platform of them all.

Sociologists at Utah Valley University surveyed 425 college students about their use of Facebook and their beliefs about their lives and happiness. The results aren’t surprising. At least not to me. From an article about the study:

The more time students spent on Facebook, the more they thought others had it better than they did… people who spent less time socializing with friends in cyberspace and more time socializing with them in real life were less likely to report they were  unhappy.

I can imagine that Pinterest users have a similar pattern of happiness tied to how much time they spend browsing and pinning.

We’re not all going to delete our Facebook or Pinterest accounts. We shouldn’t have to. There has to be a way to enjoy the goods of social media.

So how do you stop comparing? How do you turn your back to envy and wanting more?

Less pinning, more doing.

Make those crafts and bake that cake. Pin activities and projects that you’ll actually complete. And take some of your Pinterest time to do them.

Pin for your life today.

Find clothing that is in your price range and suits you. Better yet, pin clothing that you already have. It will give you a clearer picture of matching your current wardrobe with new pieces.

Be real.

Those exquisite handcrafted themed birthday parties, the one with the hand sewn loot bags with each child’s name on them, they take time. Time and a lot of resources. It’s okay to keep things simple and outsource a few things. Be yourself and enjoy it. Maybe you’re not the parent that’s going to bake three dozen cupcakes. Maybe you’re the parent that’s going to lead a group of four year-olds in the Hokie Pokie.

Do you use Pinterest? Does it make you want more or feel envy?

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  • I’m wondering if it matters if it is Pinterest, Facebook or the Jones’ that you look at? If we are not quite happy with our lives, we will always have an inferiority complex and miss the fun of looking at lovely Pinterest/Facebook pictures and feeling happy for others.

  • I pin lots of recipes, crafts and activities for myself but rarely spend much time browsing others’ pages. I love being able to find that recipe that I really wanted to try and actually trying it! There are some things I pin that I will probably never make (cinnamon buns I am looking at you) but that doesn’t really bother me.

    • We’ve been eating some meals with no grains/gluten and I have pinned quite a few recipes and then made them. I mostly use Pinterest to create inspiration boards for downsizing. Not only for myself but for others to share. I also love pinning good quotes :)

  • I couldn’t agree more. It’s so easy to look at the pictures and assume that you are the only one living on a budget. I have found limiting my time and making my Pinterest excursions purposeful and specific help keep my priorities and envy in check.

  • I’m presuming from the name that it is a virtual pinboard? The reason I presume, is that although I received an invite to join, I didn’t do anything with it. That’s not because I’m concerned I’ll start comparing, rather on social media, I’m currently doing as much as I can manage without it taking up too much time. However ironically this post will probably give me a kick to check it out. I know I have been pinned, but that’s as much as my knowledge goes.
    If it is a virtual pinboard, there’s another reason for me to take care. I’ve had issues with real pinboards in the past. To the point of it being 3-4 articles and photos deep in every square inch of the board!
    Me+Paper = Not a healthy relationship!!!!!( whether that be physical paper or virtual!)

  • I must be using Pinterest wrong, because I tend to use it for myself, pinning things I see on to my boards to remember for later, but I seem to get lots of repins. I wonder if all those people repinning me think I am doing all of this stuff. I don’t go looking through other people’s boards, but rather use it like I used to use my inspiration notebooks.

  • I love Pinterest, and you can probably tell by my pinboards, I’ve pinned A LOT. I can definitely see the potential for the ‘darkside’ of Pinterest. I’m with Apple though. I think it’s all about how people look at it. I have 81 boards and 4,410 pins. WOW! I’ve never looked at those numbers before! I mainly pin DIY ideas, food, and quotes. Which makes sense since I love crafting and sewing, we eat nearly every meal in, by scratch (for love of cooking more than anything), and I love great quotes. I also have made a ‘completed pins’ board. I sometimes forget to re-pin to that board, but I agree, it really does make you feel more accomplished. I don’t pin very expensive outfits or things I cannot afford (typically). I even have a board called ‘totally doable dream house ideas.’ I like having virtual pinboards, Plus, it keeps me from wanting to shop, ha! (which I think it was here that you mentioned an article that correlated Pinterest with a decrease in shopping, IIRC).

  • When I first got my pinterest account, I loved it. I pinned all kinds of things that I could do to be more fashionable, a better housekeeper, a better cook, etc. And I fully intended to implement every last one of the ideas. And then I closed my computer and looked at my house and realized that no matter how many pictures I pin, I don’t have the energy or time or money to put the vast majority into use. And then random strangers (including men) began following my boards and “mentioning” me in their repins and spamming me and that just creeped me out. I haven’t deleted my account yet, but I haven’t been out to look at it in several months. Those are the same reasons I closed my twitter account.

  • I got on pinterest before it became extremely popular (and before it had a facebook plug in). I find that I end up doing most of what I pin or atleast making plans to do it in the future.

    My clothing board has definitely made me go through my closet and get rid of TONS of clothes! There is so much that I don’t really want or need anymore and it felt so good to get rid of it. I have been getting a few new pieces here and there and I am building a wardrobe that I actually feel inspired by AND comfortable in.

    The crafts and food have been really fun to play around with. I don’t end up making everything perfectly but I don’t really stress out about it. I basically think of it as experimenting with cooking and crafts. Sometimes the experiement is a failure and sometimes it is a success.

    If there was any jealousy it would come from my travel board but it is honestly hard to have bad feelings while looking at such beautiful pictures. My husband and I have planned two trips since I started my travel board. Admittedly, they are not to places that are as beautiful as the ones on my board but the point for me is to start traveling more. I had all those beautiful locations to look forward to!

    I can definitely see how pinterest could bring out the worst in people but I feel like many of those people are the same ones who get caught up in the hype of facebook. Too often I have had a friend tell me something negative about someone else in regards to facebook. Then tend to be the same people who complain that life isnt like their pinterest boards.

  • I took a look at Pintrest last year, but decided against keeping my account open because I found that it wasn’t something that I felt would enhance my life. I don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare but I do have a Google+ account that I use every so often. I know personally when I spent a lot of time on FB before I deleted my account I was not as happy as I am now. We really do have a good little life in our house and it is easier for me to remember that when I partake in less social media.

    • Wow Amy, nicely summarized! I was nodding along as I read your response & I concur – we too have a good little life in our household without wondering what everyone else is doing in theirs!

    • I agree, nicely summarized. I am happier with my life now, with everything I have (health, family, etc) than I was when I was on Facebook. I vividly remember having a little sob to myself that we didn’t have a nursery for our son when he was just a few weeks old. I was sad because I saw a photo of my friend who had recently had a baby and she had a nursery. What did I do? Spent a fortune and a lot of time decking out a nursery. A nursery we didn’t use much because our son slept with us.

  • I haven’t delved too much into Pinterest, just has felt like too much of a time sink – and I already need to delete my FB account. However, I have started using it just for myself as a place to bookmark ideas for my son’s playroom that I’m starting to create. I like the visual reminder of ideas versus traditional text bookmarks. Other than that I stay away from it!

  • I’ve recently found your blog and so enjoy it. Thank you for the calm and inspiration you provide. I tried to find you on Pinterest and couldn’t…are you there as The Minimalist Mom? I thought it would be another good place to learn more about downsizing.

  • Never heard of Pinterest before now. I took a peek and of course, would love to do it all. One more site to get hooked on. I did send a request to join. I would definitely use some of the ideas but I will limit my time browsing. Thanks for piquing my interest in something new to me.

  • I do enjoy Pinterest – mainly as a gathering of my thoughts rather than using my fridge!
    Since I have a daily routine, daily chores, the job of budgeting and making our meals from scratch, not to mention having a 16 month old and being 31 weeks pregnant, Pinterest is little more than a pinboard for me. Not having Facebook really really helps (from what people tell me) – we know who our true friends are!
    Overall, I am quite thankful I have not been sucked into that vortex!

  • An interesting post and it resonates with me. I joined FB when my youngest teen was wanting an account (us being “friends” was a condition of his use, so I created an account). I never spent a ton of time on it, but did find that I checked it several times a day. I was able to filter out FB game posts and then those that posted about FB games, and then prolific yet useless info from HS people I could barely remember. When I realized that getting annoyed by reading FB (whether it be people that presume their “friends” find their “humor” about divisive politics funny or the parent with the kid with the 4.0) I decided I’d take a month away from it and removed the app from my phone. After that month I deactivated my account. Haven’t looked back for a sec.

    I do use twitter, but have a limit on the # of people I follow (gotta drop someone if I add) and use it mostly for news/sports. I created a Pinterest account because I thought it would be a nice way to collect photography images I use to learn from. But I never thought about searching or following other people. I haven’t used it in months, but I think I’ll just revert back to bookmarks, etc. For all the reasons you outlined in your post, but I’d never really realized it’s all the same ‘turn off’ for me.

    • I have the same rule with twitter. I try and keep who I am following around 200. With the time zone differences it keeps my stream from being overwhelmed. I also rotate who I follow for new ideas and perspectives.

  • I don’t feel compelled to compare when I’m on pintrest. Instead, I am able to pin things that I think are pretty or fancy as a means of admiring them without feeling the need to obtain or do them. Just looking at the picture is enough for me. I like to see beautiful things, but I don’t feel the need to own them all or feel any less because I don’t.

    • “I like to see beautiful things, but I don’t feel the need to own them all or feel any less because I don’t.”
      Thanks for this response. Helpful to hear from people that are using Pinterest wisely and enjoying it.

  • I love Pinterest because I’m very visual. Most of the things I pin to my boards to inspire me in some way. I also like to craft and cook most of our foods from scratch so I’m always open to trying new things. The things I don’t pin I just admire. The more I see the more I appreciate how unique we all are, and I don’t have to “want” what others are pinning or have. I could take or leave most of it. I suppose it’s all your perspective, but I look at the artsy side of it.

  • I don’t do Pinterest, though I have an account there. I just couldn’t get into it. I feel like I already spend so much time in front of the computer, the last thing I need is to be doing that more. I do think it’s a brilliant idea, though, and a great way to stay organized for some people. I think Pinterest would invariably lead me to comparison/envy and feelings of what I “should” be doing/making/baking/crafting/designing. That’s my personality, though. My world on Facebook is filled with local moms who post endless “happy modest/brag” photos of their lives, children, and nights out. It has become a real turn-off for me. So much so that I deleted Facebook from my iPhone! Ah, the de-cluttering extends to my electronics!

    • It’s an interesting development that people now share their “brags” with 100s of people at once (or even dozens), something that just wasn’t done less than a decade ago. You used to tell your parents about their grandchildren, and maybe your siblings (depending on how a brag like that would impact them and their own family issues/challenges) or compare notes with your closest friends with same aged kids. I’m the youngest in my family, and I even look back on things I shared (bragged) about on family emails years ago and sometimes cringe.

      Our local HS has a yahoo list for the graduating Sr’s parents (for organization purposes). It became dormant the minute they graduated. About halfway thru their freshman year in college, someone decided we should “share’ the updates. Of course, her child was honor roll, in a sorority, and a number of other accolades. I’m certain that there was quite a diverse group of kids/families on that list and I couldn’t imagine withstanding a laundry list of “perfect kid” updates — and yes, my child was struggling at the time. Obviously no one was going to send a less than glowing update. I unsubscribed.

  • It is useful to me. My recipe board is my new cookbook, which I use weekly to make my menus. I love this because I’ve found many wonderful whole foods meals that are yummy. My clothes collection has helped me define what my style actually is and make much better decisions when purchasing. Plus I can go “window shopping” without the tempation of sales, etc. I collect art on Pinterest which I could never afford to do in reality but I find inspiring when working on my own art pieces. And, I use craft ideas with my kids for birthday parties etc. I see the potential for it to have a “dark” side. I did experience wasting quite a bit of time on it before the great ‘unplug’. I’ve since significantly revised that and surf for about a half hour a week or less. Overall, I do use it so it is an asset to me.

  • Great post, and I quit pinterest for this very reason. For me, pinterest made me feel like I wasn’t living up to society’s standards, especially in the realms of decorating, fashion, cooking, and crafting. I quite love my house and myself now that I’m not comparing myself! I’d love to quit facebook too, but I can’t for several reasons. Facebook gives me an inferiority complex in the realm of travel & leisure pursuits (it always seems like everyone is going on fabulous vacations and eating at hip new restaurants).

  • I tried Pinterest for a few weeks last year…but I found myself sitting in front of the computer too much – so I deleted the account – pinboards & all. No big loss as things I did find that I really really wanted to keep (mostly recipes) I ended up copying into my recipe app as I was afraid the link on Pinterest would not be there the next day or whenever I finally got around to making the recipe.
    Pinterest has some dicey terms of service especially over copy-write infringements. While I seriously doubt photographers are lining up to sue the pants of folks who pinned one of their images without prior approval…ya never know. Let it be someone else & not me is my philosophy on that.

  • Pinterest is such a tricky one. I really love the beauty & inspiration I can find there, from pictures of improbable Bavarian castles to tips on cleaning your oven vent filter. But I don’t like how Carrara marble countertops and twee little children’s clothes that cost as much as rent can start to seem commonplace after you browse the site for a while. And I’ve noticed that I tend to visit the site when I feel vague stirrings of inferiority, and then I use it to fuel an unconscious catalogue of all that’s wrong with my life. Facebook is similar. It began as a wonderful way to keep in touch with far-flung friends, and continues to serve that purpose. For someone who has moved 8 times in 9 years, this matters. But it has also evolved into this strange form of entertainment/disconnecting from my reality that feels icky.

    Thanks for posting this & providing a place for this conversation, Rachel. It helps me formulate my ideas about being more selective with the media I let into my life.

  • I have no FB and no Twitter account. I don’t use Pinterest. I don’t own a cell phone (I’m probably the only person in Luxembourg without a cell phone). I do have a blog though. I am not a minimalist, it’s just that I don’t want these things to complicate my life.

  • Oh Rachel, I like that – pin things you already own. I really love some of my clothes and pinning them would be a great way to remind me. I’m so picky about my stuff that I’ve started taking my favourites to a seamstress to copy. Maybe I’ve replaced an old obsession (clothes shopping) with a new one (fabric shopping), but at least I know the end product will fit me perfectly and that saves me a lot of time “searching”.

    • My mom was a seamstress and this was once a very common request. Usually from women that had classic style and invested in better quality fabrics. Great reminder here.

  • Interesting how many people I’ve heard saying the same kinds of things about Pinterest lately. That’s just not how I use it at all. I bookmark recipes, and it’s nice to have them all in one place with pictures. I pin ideas for color schemes for future projects or outfits. If I’m looking for a visual reference for something specific, I’ll search on Pinterest to see if there’s one I want to repin, but otherwise I don’t pay much attention to what strangers are pinning, much less let their pins make me feel bad about myself. It’s mostly bookmarks and eye candy for me.

  • I don’t understand the obsession with Pinterest OR Facebook. I’ve actually tried to get into them, spend time on them to see what all the fuss was about. I still don’t get it, and cancelled my accounts. Just not interesting to me.

  • I don’t have Pinterest envy (promise, cross-my-heart), but I do know people that do. I pin a ton of things and I honestly haven’t done many of the things on there. I’m a visual person, so it’s much more appealing to me to save things with images instead of just bookmarks. I’ve recently made it a goal to start doing more of the things I pin. I’ve made a very yummy frittata, an incredible dip, made some skirts for my daughters, and just about devoured the best apple bread I’ve ever tasted. I’ve made it a goal to try at least 2-3 pins every week. It should be a fun experiment!

  • I signed up for Pinterest but then really couldn’t be bothered. I’m sure I’ll use it when looking for redecorating ideas or maybe recipes but only when I need to and not as a matter of course. It’s like walking round the shops – it makes you want something even if you don’t need it.

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